Five Tips for Evaluating a Role as a Board Member - Choose Wisely

by Robinson, Andy Tuesday, December 08, 2009
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Being asked to join the board of a community, professional or business organization certainly can be a boost to the ego. But, to make sure you say "Yes" for the right reasons, ask yourself these five questions, recommended by some seasoned board members:

1. "What do I bring to the table? How will I add value as a board member?"

Is it knowledge of your field, financial savvy, existing business relationships, or something else? If your experience and knowledge area(s) closely resembles that of the board's other members, decline and volunteer where you will make a difference.

2. "What is my expected time commitment?"

Ensure you have a clear understanding of your time commitment. Consider the frequency of board meetings, typical board meeting duration, travel time, committee involvement, special project involvement, attendance at special events, and other areas of volunteer involvement.

3. "When will I know I've completed my job on the board?"

You should generally be able to invest a year or two to reach very specific goals and objectives. If you decide to accept the position, develop a clear vision early on as to your expected tenure, and hold yourself accountable to the timeframe you set for yourself.

4. "What has the board accomplished in the last year, two years and five years?"

Don't join a board that takes up a lot of members' time in meetings or retreats without accomplishing much. Look at the board's track record for accomplishments -- is this an organization that you would have been proud to have played a leadership role in? Also, determine if clear goals and objectives have been set for the near term.

5. "May I talk to three or four current members before I join?"

Ask, "What difference can I make?". If a clear picture does not develop, consider turning the invitation down.

In summary, joining the board of a worthwhile organization can be an excellent experience and is certainly important for purposes of personal, professional and leadership development. Choose wisely and ensure those that you join are ones where you will give a "110%" effort.